We think of gardens as something we make. You start a garden and tend to it. It is yours. But the garden has most likely been there for a very long time. You just mould it to your own purposes. If you ask a rosebush how long it has been there, it won’t know what you’re talking about. Toronto-based Nick Storring gets this horticultural principle. His album Gardens has the feel of new sprouts coming through old growth. Multitracking more than sixty instruments, all played by himself, Storring—who has worked with a diversity of musicians, including Rhys Chatham, Daniel Johnston, Diane Labrosse, Eddie Prévost, and Damo Suzuki—has crafted a suite that at times brings to mind baroque and East Asian court musics, while sounding fresh and contemporary. The five instrumental tracks, ranging from four to sixteen minutes, are lush and richly layered, without being overly complicated. Like a respite in the garden, the music can be passive and contemplative, but can surprise with closer inspection as well. Storring creates a striking natural balance—pop, in a way, but hardly slight.
The album is an informal tribute to the late Charles Stepney, who saw his greatest commercial success producing Earth, Wind & Fire, but it’s likely his earlier work with another Chicago band, Rotary Connection, that appeals to Storring’s ear. Those records—featuring a young Minnie Riperton—are catchy but unpinnable, a bit psychedelic, a bit soulful, sometimes cinematic, sometimes swinging. Gardens, likewise, benefits from its cross-pollination, bringing many styles to mind without quite sounding like any of them.